There is a silent epidemic which is slowly spreading its way through the medical community – physician burnout. Today’s doctors combat stress from every imaginable angle. They need to carry a heavy patient load to cover their overheads costs, pay steep malpractice insurance premiums, and still make a profit. Insurance companies require mounds of paperwork to document and support claims, and seem to fight the physician’s medical choices at every turn.
Instead of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, modifications are made to the daily schedule – often at the expense of quality family time, vacation days, personal health, and even emotional well-being. Disturbing statistics about the impact of these increased stress levels can be found in the Medscape National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report 2019. A survey of over 15,000 physicians from 29 specialties revealed that 44% reported feeling burned out. 11% experienced symptoms of depression, with 4% diagnosed as clinically depressed.
Reducing Office Stress to Reduce Physician Burnout
Not only can physician burnout compromise the quality of care provided to patients and increase the possibility of medical malpractice lawsuits, it also impacts the doctor’s ability to interact with office staff and other medical professionals. In response to these pressures, some physicians choose to take the hospitalist route, merge their practice with a larger organization, or leave the medical field entirely. In the worst case scenario, some 14% of doctors report thinking about suicide, with an estimated 400 physicians per year completing the deed.
To prevent these dire outcomes, it is helpful to understand the basic causes of office stress and to look at some ways of reducing it in order to avoid physician burnout. Medscape found that the factors which contributed most to feelings of physician burnout included:
- Too many bureaucratic tasks
- Trying to accomplish too much
- Perceived lack of respect
- Lack of autonomy
- Increased regulatory environment
Using Technology Tools to Improve Doctor Work-Life Balance
Although technology is currently receiving some of the blame for increasing physician burnout, it also has the opportunity of being able to restore the work-life balance as well by helping to organize, analyze and manage the practice.
Technology tips to reduce administrative burdens include: